The King of Kalbem: Chapter 11 - Family Time
Updated: Sep 11, 2020
Chapter 11: Family Time
Caroline didn’t often get to come to the royal chambers, which is where Kat was spending this month under close observation. Caroline didn’t have to deliver the letter personally, but Kat allowed her to.
“Come in,” Kat beckoned at Caroline’s knock.
“Good day, my lady,” Caroline curtseyed. “Your husband is completing the task in my village and asked me to give this letter to you.”
Kat rushed over, “Thank you, Caroline. I have missed him so.” She took the letter, read it, and smiled, “I love that man so much. It is time for a visit. Duncan, may we visit Will in the northern village?”
“Yes, my lady,” Duncan replied, “it can be arranged.”
“Thank you, my loyal bodyguard. We shall leave in the morning.”
“Very well, my lady.”
Kat turned back to Caroline, “Have you seen our baby?”
“Only from a distance, my lady.”
“You shall see her now.” Kat picked Little Lizzy up from her cradle. “Do you have experience with infants?”
“Yes madam. I have younger siblings and often help families when a child is born.”
Kat smiled and placed the child in Caroline’s arms. “How old are you, dear Caroline?”
“Sixteen, my lady.”
“Not too young to have some beaux, right?” Kat winked.
Caroline shrugged, “I don’t really have any. I would like to get married eventually, but men aren’t a priority for me right now.”
Kat scrunched her eyebrows, “I have a hard time grasping that concept. What are your priorities if marriage isn’t one of them?”
“I have a family to help take care of, there are people in need I like to cook for, and I am the royal cook. There is not much time for courting.”
“Well, perhaps we can fix that. Men are unpredictable, but Will was well-worth all the hardships and struggles of courting.”
“I am open to suggestions. I do need to go and attend to my duties now though. Thank you for letting me hold her.” Caroline gave the infant back to Kat. “Do you have any requests for dinner?”
“Yes, bring your work home with you, and have the tinkers and the carpenter over for dinner tomorrow evening. Since my husband isn’t allowed to take anything from the castle, could you find something for him that you would have fed your family?”
“Yes, my lady.”
“Thank you, Caroline. You are so sweet.”
The next morning, as the sun rose, Kat and Little Lizzy were in a carriage on the way to the village Will was in. Duncan accompanied them, along with another bodyguard named Stephen. As they rode into the village in the royal carriage, they were immediately noticed. Cameron bursted into the carpenter shop where Will and Daniel were working, “The royal carriage is here! It’s your wife, Lady Katrina. Edward is leading them here right now.”
Will’s heart took a leap and the sound of his beloved wife’s name. As soon as he got a stopping place, he ran out of the shop with Edmund following closely behind. They met the carriage several paces away from the shop and ran with it back to the door. Will offered his hand to help Kat out of the carriage. After stepping out, she handed the child to Edmund and hugged Will. He picked her up and spun her around. “You’re here!” he exclaimed.
He put her down and kissed her beautifully. “I missed you, my love,” she replied. “We came to visit you.”
Will took his child from Edmund and embraced her, “It’s been almost half a lifetime, my darling. I promise that Daddy will spend some quality time with his Little Lizzy after this task is over.” Kat smiled. She loved watching Will with Elizabeth; he was such a loving father. “Come along, my child, let me introduce you to the carpenter.”
Daniel was standing by the door. Will and Kat walked over to him. “This is Daniel, the carpenter I told you about.”
Kat bowed gracefully, “I am delighted to meet you.”
Daniel stood there slightly nervous and stupefied. She wasn’t as intimidating as most girls since she was married, but she was beautiful and gracious, and likely was his future queen. He decided not to say anything and attempted to bow as well as he could.
Will opened the door and beckoned his wife, child, and their bodyguards in. “I hope we aren’t interrupting too badly,” Kat said, “but we had to visit you. We can mind our business in the corner while you work.”
Will smiled and kissed her, “You are never an intrusion, my love. We do have a lot to work on, but feel free to entertain yourself in any way. Though before we get back to work, Daniel, I must show her your work.”
Will proceeded to show Kat the various designs Daniel had made. She took a special liking to his gardenia carvings. “Wow,” she awed, “I see why you wanted to work with him so much; he is incredible. And has impeccable taste. Tell me, Daniel, why do you use gardenias so much in your designs?”
Daniel looked at her awkwardly, “They are lovely flowers and work very well in my designs.”
“But why not use roses?” Kat pressed. “They look almost the same.”
Daniel froze for a moment. “They are just… special.”
Kat whispered to Will, “They also happen to symbolize secret love.”
“Yours isn’t so secret anymore,” Will teased, then turned back to Daniel. “Let’s get back to working on Caroline’s table.”
“Oh, you are making a table for Caroline’s family?” Kat asked.
“Yes,” Will replied. “We’re almost done, actually.”
“Perfect!” Kat applauded. “Because we’re having dinner at her place tonight. We talked about it at the palace yesterday. She is going to make quite the meal for us!”
“Really?” Will questioned. Daniel went slightly stiff.
“Yes,” Kat replied, “but don’t worry; I am not breaking the rules. She is bringing the food for everyone except for you from the palace. She is making food for you with whatever is in her kitchen at home. That is completely from this area, and I’m not bringing anything from the castle for you.”
Will might have questioned the lawfulness of the idea, but as it worked technically, and his wife was thoughtful to do it for him, he didn’t comment and kissed her gratefully.
Kat quietly sat in the corner on a chair with gardenia carvings and tended to her embroidery and the baby. After a few hours, there was a knock at the door. Edmund opened the door and smiled, “Come in Dominique.”
“Thank you, Edmund,” she walked in and turned to Kat shyly. “I want to make some lunch for everyone. Are there any requests?”
“Yes,” Kat leapt up, “I want to make it with you.”
Dominique was slightly shocked, “I didn’t know you could cook. It is not in the duties of a lady.”
“Indeed no, but I happen to be friends with the castle’s cook. She has taught me a thing or two. I just love to learn. I’m not amazing, but I would love to help. If that is alright with you, of course.”
“Please,” Dominique curtsied, “I would be honored.”
“Edmund,” Kat turned, “would you accompany us? I’m sure you wouldn’t mind switching things up a bit. Duncan could watch Will today? Edmund can watch us with Stephen. I’m sure Duncan would like to get some time away from the girls anyway.” Edmund and Duncan chuckled. “And perhaps Edmund needs some female influence.” Kat winked and Edmund gave a slight nod of the head.
“Your highness doesn’t object?” Edmund asked Will.
“Not at all,” Will smiled. Edmund gave requesting glances to the other guards, and at their approval, he gave a shy glance at Dominique. She smiled and blinked her eyes slowly.
Kat glanced at Edmund then back at Dominique. “Very well, let us go!” She walked to the door with Lizzy in her arms as Stephen opened the door and Dominique and Edmund followed.
* * * * *
“How long until you think this will be made?” Michael asked.
“I usually can make a sword in nine to twelve days. This one is going to take extra time since it is going to be made with the best of craftsmanship. I need at least two weeks to do this.”
“Very well,” Michael smiled, “that would schedule us to be done on the eighteenth day of the task, so we would still have twelve days afterwards.”
“Approximately,” Morgan agreed. “Just in time for Beatrice’s marriage in twenty days.” He sighed and slumped over.
Michael realized that Morgan wasn’t motivated enough to do this on his own. “Come Morgan, this task can take your mind off it.”
Morgan raised his eyebrow as he looked up at Michael, “I’ll try, I really will give you everything I have, but I don’t have much left in me.”
“You will do well, my friend. Remember, I will always be here for you. You may have no family and lose the girl you love, but I will never betray you. We must focus on the task. It will make the burden easier than just moping around your shop.”
“You’re right,” Morgan sighed in agreement. “When will Hector be back from Tezel with the money? I am low on supplies for such a fine sword.”
“It’s a two day journey on horse, and we sent him two days ago, so it will probably be another two or three days.”
“We can’t start until I buy the finer steel. Let’s look over the design again.”
“Very well,” Michael sighed.
Morgan pulled out the charts, “We will start with a basic falchion design. It isn’t the first kind of sword one would expect of a king, but it will be clever, which is something they will want. We will make the blade decently thick for the axe-like sturdiness, but slender enough that it doesn’t look like a club. The blade will curve with this arc on this side and this arc on that side.
“On the blunt side, we will add an extra blade that will fold from the sword as a sword breaker. There will be a finger guard, and we’ll make sure that is nicely ornate with gold filigree. Then the hilt will have a poisoned dart inside which can be shot out with a spring and trigger readily accessible. And of course, we’ll make this with the finer materials worthy of a king.”
“Sounds wonderful,” Michael agreed. “As we can’t start quite yet, let’s practice. May I help you with these horseshoes?”
“Yes, thank you,” Morgan handed one to him and they spent most of the day that way.
Later that evening, a pigeon brought a message to Michael saying: “Will is working with a carpenter. No news on what they are making; they are practicing on a table. Kat is visiting today only. I’m laying low as you asked. Reply soon, my love.”
Michael smiled, A table? he thought. He assumed that carpentry would imply Will would make furniture, which Michael considered quite useless for the task. He smirked, This may be easier than I thought. As long as I can keep Morgan on task. The poor soul is far too distracted. He grabbed a scrap piece of parchment and wrote: “All is well. We will make a kingly falchion when we get the materials in a few days. Keep an eye on Will for now, but don’t be seen and keep contact in case I need you.”
* * * * *
Dominique and Kat were busily making some stew in the kitchen as Edmund held Lizzy and Stephen stood watch. They all made an agreement that everyone could speak freely and not worry about what is proper according to their station, so Edmund was singing to Lizzy as she slowly drifted away on his shoulder.
“I had no idea Edmund was like this until she was born two weeks ago,” Kat mentioned quietly to Dominique. “It’s not something one expects of a bodyguard to be so good with children.”
“You haven’t seen anything yet,” Dominique winked. “Just watch when it is play time.”
“Play time?” Kat inquired.
Dominique smiled, “It is so precious! Edmund takes all the children in the village and plays with them as soon as Will and Daniel are done in the workshop.”
“Now this I have to see,” Kat smiled at Edmund.
Edmund noticed the girls giggling over the pot, but he didn’t take much thought to it. “Little Lizzy is asleep,” he whispered to Kat.
Kat and Dominique took a moment to awe over the baby for a second, where Dominique took the chance to notice how large and well-defined Edmund’s arms were. Kat kissed her baby’s cheek and Dominique stroked the child, intentionally brushing Edmund once.
“The stew is almost ready,” Kat announced.
“It just needs a little paprika,” Dominique added, “which is on the top shelf.” She turned to Edmund, “Sir, will you please get the paprika for me?”
“Of course, my lady,” he carefully handed Lizzy to her mother and reached up to get the paprika. As he handed it to her, their eyes met for a moment and then she added it to the stew.
“I need to call people in,” Dominique walked outside where the children were playing. “Come in for lunch, my darlings!” Cameron and Zachary latched onto her waist and leg while Derek jumped in her arms and Edward followed her in.
Edmund smiled as he saw the pile of boys on Dominique. “Me too!” he called as he ran over and scooped up Dominique, picking up Derek and Zachary in the process, while Cameron stayed on the floor. Dominique laughed and Edmund carried her to the table.
Dominique served each of her brothers and left a bowl for her father. “Cameron, will you please bring this to Father?”
“Yes, Dominique,” he replied.
“Thank you,” she responded. “Now I need to go bring food for the others, so be good, and clean up after yourselves.”
Edmund and Stephen carried the food as they walked back to Daniel’s workshop. Dominique served and everyone enjoyed the stew. “I must go clean up now,” Dominique stood to leave.
Edmund turned to Will, “Sire, permission to accompany the lady to carry the cauldron?”
Will smirked, “Permission granted, Edmund.”
“Thank you.” Edmund took the cauldron from Dominique and opened the door for her.
As they were walking, Edmund had his first moment alone with Dominique and said, “Thank you for being so kind to us. I am amazed at your generosity.”
“It is our duty,” Dominique replied. “Though it is very enjoyable as you both are delightful company. The children of the village already adore you.”
“I’m glad. I love children, but I don’t get much time with them.”
“I love children too, though I don’t get much time without them.”
“You take on so much responsibility, my lady. You are such a wonderful daughter and sister; your brothers are crazy about you and you are always helping with something.”
She blushed, “Thank you. I’ve tried to step up since my mother died.”
“To think that you took on this responsibility since you were fourteen,” he pondered.
“It’s been very good for me; I am grateful for what I have learned.” They arrived at the house to find that the boys had not cleaned up from their meal, at least not very much. “I have a mess to clean,” she remarked.
“I’ll help you,” he immediately started working.
“Thank you, sir.” After a moment, she broke the silence, “So where is your family?”
He looked down, “In Heaven.”
She looked down, then back at him and put her hand on his forearm, “I’m sorry. How many of you were there?”
“Seven. I was the oldest.”
“That explains why you are so good with children.”
“I love my family so much. Children remind me how it felt to...” he stopped. Taking her hand, he looked at her, “You know what it is like to lose a loved one.”
She squeezed his hand, “But not what it is to lose my entire family; they are all I have, so I would be left with nothing.”
“Indeed,” Edmund continued to clean the dish, but did not let go of her hand.
It took all of her self control to keep her hand relaxed and look like she was cleaning. Her mind filled with various emotions: sympathy for losing his family, admiration for his selflessness, and excitement at his touch. Her heart sunk when she remembered that he outclassed her.
He was likewise internally admiring her compassion and motherly traits. He felt sad bringing up his family, but he was grateful she would listen to him speak of them. He wondered how long he could get away with holding her hand.
She stole a glance at him. He glanced over at the same time and she blushed slightly. He stroked his thumb against her hand.
Her eyes started to water with empathy, “Your family was your world too?”
“What could I possibly treasure more in life?”
“Now my life is to protect the royal family.”
“To prevent the same thing from happening to them?”
“It’s the least I could do. William and Katrina are the most beautiful couple I’ve ever met; I can’t let them down.”
“I trust you won’t. You never let William out of your sight.”
“It is my duty.” As they finished, Edmund kept her hand, then kissed it and let it go, “You are an incredible lady, Dominique. Thank you for your example.” He walked to the door, “Now I must return to my duties, but I enjoyed talking with you.”
“As did I,” she replied softly as he started to leave. She called out after him, “Edmund?”
He turned, “Yes, my lady?”
“I would love to hear more about your family, if you don’t mind talking about them.”
He smiled, “I would enjoy that. Maybe you could tell me more about your mother as well.”
She nodded and he departed.
As evening came, Will and Daniel made the finishing touches on the table. “That is so beautiful!” Kat exclaimed. “I love the gardenia design. This is perfect for Caroline’s family!”
Daniel smiled at Kat’s praise. “We can take it over to her house,” Will started, “right after playing with the children.”
“What children?” Kat inquired.
Edmund flashed a smile at her and opened the door where ten children were waiting. “Can we go on another adventure?” they asked.
Will ran up to them, “Of course we will, children.” After exchanging glances with Edmund, Will continued, “We have a special mission from the prince today. Gather over there and we will be right out.”
The children ran to the center of the area and more came to play. “We should rescue Little Lizzy today,” Will said. “Edmund, will you play the monsters?”
“Yes, my lord,” he replied.
Will took the baby from Kat, handed her to Edmund, and escorted Kat out to the children, followed by Daniel. “My friends,” he addressed the children, “this is Queen Gardenia, mother of the magical silver baby. Where is the silver baby, you may ask? She has been stolen by the rock monster.” He motioned to Daniel, “This is Daniel, the tracker. He will help us find the monsters. We must go save the silver baby! Who is with me?”
The children cheered in agreement and Kat added, “Please save her. I will pay two hundred crowns to whoever returns her.”
The children gasped at such a large sum of money. They knew they were only pretending, but they enjoyed the idea of having such wealth. Kat walked back to the front of Daniel’s shop, where Edmund had a chair waiting for her. He handed her the baby and ran into the crowd of children. “I am the rock monster!” he thundered. “I will crush you!”
“Hurry, children,” Will called. “Pretend to be rocks!”
The children dropped to the ground, curled up, and lay still as if they were petrified. Edmund gently shook one child, “I could have sworn I saw some children here. Now all I see is a bunch of rocks!” He walked away, disappointed.
Will whispered loudly to Daniel, “Tracker, any sign of the baby?”
“No,” Daniel replied. He had become quite comfortable with the children and became more animated every day as Will’s confidence in him started to become his own. “It looks like the silver baby was stolen by the Behemoth.”
“Oh no,” Will gasped. “Those are huge beasts; they will crush you flat if they sit on you. Now children, the thing about behemoths is they are very slow. It can crush you, but you are faster. Don’t let it sit on you. We must cross this meadow to the cave of the Behemoth.”
Everyone followed Will for a few paces. “Thunderstorm! Everyone get down!” The children dropped to the ground as Daniel, Will, and Edmund, pretending to be rain, started tickling them, and pretending to be wind, gently pushed them around, and even picked some up as if they were caught in the wind. “The storm is over,” Will finally said, “and right there is the cave of the Behemoth.”
Edmund slowly walked over on his hands and feet. He turned back on a child and slowly fell back to sit on him, which the child easily moved to avoid. The children enjoyed several minutes of being chased around by Edmund and would intentionally have him come close to sitting on them for a more dramatic getaway.
Daniel shouted, “The cyclops has been here! I’ll bet he has the baby!”
How undignified of nobility! Jennifer scorned to herself. Children are such nasty creatures.
Will jumped up, “Let us be off to the cyclops’s house.” The children all followed him and Edmund crawled away. “Come, it’s just over this bridge.” They filed through the imagined pass to Edmund.
Will turned to the children, “Now remember, cyclopes are very friendly, but only to other cyclopes. You can only let one eye show. Cover it or hold it closed, but don’t let him see both eyes.”
The children each covered one eye as Edmund approached, “Ah, good day, fellow ‘clopes! How’re ye doin’ today?”
“Jus’ fine,” Will replied with the same, strange accent Edmund had. “We wanted to stop by when we heard ye had stolen the sil’er baby.”
“Oh yeah, that was pretty fine. I gave it to me pet snake up the mountain.”
“Oh that jolly big thing?”
“Yes, I figured he’d want it more than I.”
“Well, what a kind master ye are.”
“Why thank ye, fellow ‘clopes. Would ye care to come in for some lizard guts?”
“Thanks, but we ate a handful of entrails on the way.”
“Won’t ye come in?”
“Sorry, but we have to go on another raid. Thank ye for your hospi’ality, fellow ‘clops. Have a wickedly stinkin’ day!”
“And the same to ye. Bye!” Edmund called as Will and the children walked off.
Will resumed his mysterious voice, “It looks like we have to get up the mountain. Does anyone have some rope and a crossbow?” Three kids raised their hands and Will mimed shooting a crossbow to the mountain. “Everyone grab the rope and we’ll climb up the mountain.” Everyone pretended to climb the rope up.
“We’re here at the snake’s lair. The snake is poisonous, so you can’t get near it. However, laughter weakens it. So as soon as we see the snake, everyone laugh a lot and I will get the baby.”
Everyone agreed and Edmund walked up holding Elizabeth. All the children started laughing and after Will took Lizzy, Edmund started shaking around and acting as if he was in agony.
“Let’s ride the snake home!” Will called and everyone hopped on Edmund, or held on to his foot or another part. When they had enough sliding down the mountain, Will directed attention to Kat and said, “Look, it is Queen Gardenia! Let us go return the silver baby to her.”
The children ran up and began continuously bowing for this whole exchange.
“Queen Gardenia,” Will bowed, “we have found the silver baby!” He handed Lizzy to her, who was chewing on her silver spoon without interest in what was going on.
“Thank you, brave warriors for saving my baby. I will bring the 200 crowns as promised.”
“Nay, my queen. It is payment enough that we saved the greatest treasure in the kingdom.”
“I must show my appreciation in some way,” Kat stood and kissed him. The boys looked away and the girls sighed in adoration. “Thank you, brave adventurers,” Kat waved graciously. “Until next time.”
The children dispersed except for the tinker’s children and Sarah. Caroline walked up and took her sister’s hand, “I’ll never tire of that.”
“Nor will I,” Dominique smiled and glanced at Edmund.
Will cleared his throat and gave Daniel a look like he was reminding him to do something.
Daniel took a deep breath and said, “Caroline...” He looked back at Will, who gave him a more urgent look and lightly kicked him in the shins. Daniel swallowed hard and blurted out, “I made the table.”
“Really?” Caroline’s eyes brightened. “Can we bring it over now?”
“Yes,” Daniel stuttered.
In Daniel’s workshop, Caroline gawked over the table, “It is beautiful! It looks perfect! Gardenias are my favorite; how ever do you make these things so masterfully? I love it. We shall give you the rest of the money for it after dinner. Come, I made something special for tonight.”
So that’s why gardenias were so prominent in his designs! Will and Kat both noted in their minds.
Daniel, Will, and Edmund carried the table to Caroline’s house, where the Tinker family and Caroline’s family were all waiting. “Give me just a few minutes to set everything up,” Caroline requested.
“I’ll help,” Dominique offered.
“I will too,” Kat added.
The women scurried off and the men sat the table in the room. Will broke the silence, “Good job in actually saying something to her! Now remember, just talk casually with her tonight. I’ll try to get you sitting beside her, so just don’t freak out and act naturally.” Daniel looked at Will awkwardly. “Perhaps not what is entirely natural,” Will corrected, “but rather just talk to her like you would talk to me. For now, don’t let her intimidate you as a woman. You know what to talk about?”
Daniel pulled out his notes, “Yes.”
“Aren’t those men adorable?” Kat mentioned when she was alone with Caroline and Dominique. “There is hardly anything more attractive than a man playing with children!”
“So true,” Dominique agreed with a half smile.
“I will say it is adorable,” Caroline said, “though I’m not attracted to any of them.”
“Why not?” Kat asked.
Caroline explained, “Will is obviously not an option, Edmund outclasses me, and Daniel doesn’t even talk to me.”
“Fair enough,” Kat replied. “Now Dominique, you seem to fancy Edmund.”
Dominique went pale, “My lady, there is nothing going on there. I know my place.”
Kat laughed to ease Dominique’s tension, “It is quite alright. I was not incriminating you, but merely asking because it sounds adorable.”
Dominique softened, “You should see how well he treats my family and how good he is with children.”
“I know,” Kat agreed, “he rather impressed me with my own family.”
“I believe we’re about ready,” Caroline interrupted.
As they walked into the dining room, Kat whispered to Dominique, “Remember that in Kalbem men may marry below their station; I was merely a noble woman and married a prince.”
“We only have twelve seats at the table, so children, you must eat on the floor,” Caroline’s father instructed. He took his place at the head of the table, with his wife on his right side. He ushered Thomas to sit next to him and Will to the other end of the table.
Dominique sat beside her father, with a glance at Edmund. Kat saw this and told the bodyguards to sit on Will’s right side and she took her place at his left. Edmund quickly sat beside Dominique, then Stephen sat and then Duncan was beside Will. Kat invited Caroline to sit next to her, then after a few hinting looks to both Edward and Daniel, Daniel ended up sitting beside Caroline, and Edward was between Caroline’s mother and Daniel.
“How goes the task, my liege?” Caroline’s father began.
“I am learning carpentry, though I do not know what item I should make,” Will replied.
People began spouting out ideas which did not strike with Will, but soon the various sections of the tables were engaged in their own conversations. Kat talked some with Caroline, but kept a watchful eye on Edmund and Dominique. Will similarly kept an eye on Daniel and Caroline.
Daniel took a deep breath, looked at his notes, and then stuttered, “Care...Caroline? Uh, thank you f…or the food. It is very… delicious. And thank you for your… your generosity in… in eating us over to have. That is, having us to eat. I mean, not eating us, but giving us food… to eat.” He looked awkwardly at her, “Thanks,” he grinned. Picture her as Will, he thought.
Caroline’s eyebrow raised, as did the corner of her mouth, “My pleasure. You should be thanking Katrina, not me. It was her idea.”
“Well you certainly married well, didn’t you? I mean, Will certainly married well. Those two are a great couple.”
“Indeed,” her eyebrow did not seem to lower.
Don’t talk about Katrina, he reminded himself, she’s his wife. What do Will and I talk about? “Do you like this table we made?”
She softened more, “Of course. I love it; you are so good at carpentry. How ever do you carve those lovely gardenias here?”
“Mostly just knives and chisels. I used to whittle a lot as a child, so I’m well-practiced in carving.”
“I remember,” she smiled. “I’m pretty sure I was the one who told you to be a carpenter.”
“Yes, it was you.” He took a bite of food. I don’t know what to say. Keep on the subject of carpentry. He swallowed and said, “It’s been a wonderful profession for me. I love to build.”
“Fortunately you are very good at it.”
Daniel didn’t know how to respond to a compliment, so he said nothing and put more food in his mouth. He then looked at his notes which said not to spend the whole time talking about himself and to ask about cooking in the castle. “So… how is cooking in… in the castle?”
“Quite enjoyable. I was promoted to head cook just this year.”
“Really?” Daniel interrupted. “That is so wonderful! You must be the youngest head cook ever.”
His genuine excitement startled Caroline, but a sincere smile crept onto her face, “Thank you. I was very excited about it.”
“What exactly do you do as the head cook? Are you mostly management, making the recipes and telling other people what to do?”
For a few minutes it seemed that Daniel forgot to be awkward with Caroline. Will less than subtly watched in amazement as Daniel had a legitimate conversation as Caroline explained the elements of her station. Then Daniel accidentally knocked his plate onto his lap. He looked in fear at Caroline and then at Will.
Kat immediately said her line she used to relieve klutzy awkwardness, “Come on, Daniel, I can be much more clumsy than that. I’d only give you a rating of four out of ten.” Everyone at the table made a relieved chuckle. Kat continued, “Now I once made a really impressive fall. I was on a glass bridge in a rain shower where I slipped and fell upstream of the bridge into the stream. As I stood up, I hit my head on the bridge, and then I walked into a tree on the way back inside. Now that was a ten. Perhaps you can aspire to become as clumsy as me one day.” Kat winked at Daniel, and he smiled gratefully at her.
Dominique looked shyly at Edmund. He smiled at her, “Would you like to join us in our games with the children tomorrow?”
She smiled, “I would enjoy that. What character should I play?”
“The world needs more fair maidens; you’d do well.”
“I’m not nearly as creative as you are.”
“I’m sure you’ll pick it up well.” Edmund looked down and draped his right hand near her left.
“I’ll follow your lead,” she winked and placed her hand closely to his. He smiled at her and slowly took her hand.
“Are we both playing matchmaker?” Kat whispered in Will’s ear.
“Knowing you are always trying to set up couples, of course we are,” Will squeezed her hand.
“Does Daniel fancy Caroline?”
“Yes, for a long while. It is very sweet.”
“He needs some practice.”
“Would you believe me when I say that he’s improved?”
Kat’s eyes widened and she suppressed a laugh, “Perhaps you can use his awkwardness to his advantage; awkward guys can be so adorable. Smooth guys can be trouble.”
Will turned to her with a flirty smile, “Are you implying something about me, dear?”
She smiled, “Maybe. You were a perfect balance.”
“I see,” he raised an eyebrow with his adoring smile, “and who might you be setting up? That infatuated couple over there?”
“I guess I don’t have a lot of work to do with that.”
“The only barrier with Dominique and Edmund is station; he feels his duty doesn’t allow the ability to make his own life.”
“Goodness, that boy is sweet. He gives his life so we can have ours. We have to help him and her be together now.”
“I’ll see what I can do,” Will winked.
Later that night, Will and Kat found some moments alone together after Kat fainted from a dizzy spell. “My love,” Will addressed, “I don’t know what to do for this task. We are on day four and I still have no idea what to do, except I want to make it out of wood.”
“Well darling,” Kat replied, “woodworking is a very diverse field. What sort of kingly items are there?”
“That’s the thing; I don’t want to make some grandiose kingly possession. I don’t need anything. It’s the people I should be focused on.”
“Then don’t make something for yourself. It is a kingly attribute to serve your people.”
“It’s nice to know I’m not crazy. I’ve really been wanting to build something for the children we play with every evening.”
“That is such a great idea!” Kat kissed him. “So what would you like to make for them, my dear?”
“I just wish I could make something to aid in the games we play. I keep thinking of the flying on dragons and climbing mountains and wish there was something I could make to aid their imaginations.”
“What specific things would you like to aid their imaginations?”
“Take the first game we played here for example. We held on to birds above our heads who flew us up the mountain, crossed a bridge, entered a lair, and flew home on a dragon’s back. I wish we had some sort of physical manifestation of them, like rope suspended above our head or something to climb on.”
“Well you could make a bridge to a small, elevated platform of some sort.”
“And swings, like we have in our garden!”
“That could simulate the feel of flying,” Kat encouraged.
The spark lit in Will’s head, “This solves everything. I’m getting a vision of this.” He pulled Kat in closely, “I love you so much, Katrina.”
She kissed him, “Shall we continue discussing this, or was that all you needed?”
“That is all I needed, but do give me a minute to sketch out what is in my head before it fades.” Will scribbled on a piece of parchment for a few minutes as he mumbled, “Porcupines, no that was… flying with a ladder… if it was held up with… then the pigs were… the icy bridge… after the lava pit… then the stronghold where the mice were… the shortcut up the river… pygmy swans… dragon bunny-ducklings… and floating down the rainbow!”
He then embraced Kat, “What would I do without you?”
“Let’s hope we never find out. I’ve had a hard enough time going three days without you. A month feels so long.” She cringed and held her head in pain.
“It does. Though I fear for your safety and your health.”
“I’m fine,” Kat insisted.
Will countered, “I don’t want you to have more complications like this where we have no physician and resources to care for you. Besides, Michael and the Tezelians might be up to something; I expect foul play. Father did make a caveat to protect me from them, but there is nothing to protect you. My dearest treasure, it pains me to say this, but you mustn’t visit me again until the kingship is assigned. I can not risk your safety or Elizabeth’s.”
Kat’s expression fell some and she tightened her arms around him, “No, I’ll miss you too much!”
Will’s voice was pained, “Kat, please don’t make this harder than it already is.”
She softened, but tightened her embrace, “I understand. I will write to you every day.”
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